You know I’ve posted quite a few recipes on my site but I’ve never really talked about the photos that accompany them. Funny really, because over the past year or so, that’s really become really important to me….in some case more important than my recipes.
So if you want to know more about food photography, then you’re in the right place as I will be giving you tips, tricks and just information on food and food photography! So let’s dive in, shall we?
First up for analysis is angles…where should you position your camera or phone in order to capture your food in all its glory? Well unsurprisingly, there is no ‘one angle suits all’. It really depends on what you are shooting.
Let’s tackle each angle separately with some examples.
Top down angle or Flat lay Photography
You may have heard the term flat lay and queried its meaning. Essentially flat lay, or top down photography is when your camera is positioned directly over your food, as in the photo above. It’s kind of like getting a birds eye view of your subject.
With a phone, shots like this don’t take much time and come out pretty well. With a camera however, it can be a different story. Now if you were quick, you could just hold your camera over your food and snap away. This might be what you’re after and if so, then well done – all sorted! However, if you want to make sure you have the composition right and that your props are all in the right place, etc.. then it could take a bit longer and you may need to pre plan your set up.
With the above photo, I put my camera on a C stand (I could also have used a tripod), so that it was steady and not unstable (which it would have been if I was just holding from above). Using the latter method can result in camera shake, an wonky angles which does not produce the best image!
There are other factors to consider when shooting a flat lay, like positioning of camera etc… but I will cover these in another post.
As you have probably guessed, this angle is perfect for shots of soups, pasta, one pan dishes, table scenes…in fact a lot of food is best shown from this angle.
Not so good for:
Food that doesn’t look as good from this angle would be sandwiches, burgers, etc… where you want to see inside them rather than just seeing the bread. Also wine bottles, cans, etc…
The 45 degree angle (or 25 – 75 degrees!)
Ok so when I say 45 degrees, don’t hold me to that exact angle! What I mean is an angle kind of mid way between the flatlay (as explained above) and looking at the food straight on (which I’ll talk about soon). So a this is a great way to shoot food if you have a few subjects in the frame. By shooting at 45 degrees, you can focus on the ones closer to you, which means the subjects further away will become out of focus (we call this bokeh). They look blurred compared to the main subject you want to focus on, ensuring that the eye is drawn to this item.
In the image above, I am drawing the eye to the madeleine in the centre of the shot, and the two madeleines further away are out of focus. The pistachios at the front are also blurred out – this indirectly tells your eye to move to the area of the image where the subject is in focus – the central madeleine.
I love the use of bokeh – I use it a lot at Christmas too when I have the fairy lights in the frame – you can see some examples on my instagram page. Now, with the image below, I could have actually chosen to shoot it straight on, but I wanted to show the whole plate of churros – I didn’t want the cinnamon bundle at the front to obscure it in any way. I also wanted to give the feeling of depth. Finally, the fairy lights would have been covered by the churros had I shot at a straighter angle.
This angle is great if you want to capture the top and side of food. So with the madeleines, if they were in a baking tray, then a top down image would have worked great, but as I have stacked them, I wanted to capture the depth here whilst still showing the icing/pistachio crumb.
It’s also great for cakes if you want to capture the icing on top and also the sides of the cake, particularly if there are drips or some other texture on the sides.
Not so good for:
If you just have one subject like a baking sheet with cookies, or a burger with lots of toppings then the 45 degree angle is probably not as good as one of the other choices which would enhance your image more.
The Straight on Angle
Burgers, sandwiches, a stack of pancakes/waffles, pouring shots
Not so good for:
Slices of cake, soups, salads, anything that is flat (unless you stack them!)
So as you can see, the straight on angle is great for foods that are layered, or foods that have more going on inside them, as opposed to on top.
Burgers and sandwiches in particular are perfect subjects for the straight on angle.
For the above shot, it would have been pointless to shoot it from above, and even a 45 degree angle wouldn’t have done justice to it. With this straight on shot you can really see the layers in the burger plus I’ve added in a bit of bokeh with the condiments at the back of the image.
Bottles also work well with straight on shots – again the image above shows this, although if the bottle is the focal point, then obviously don’t bokeh it like in the above shot with the ketchup!
So there you have it – the 3 best angles for food photography. Yes there are a few other ways to capture food but there are also things you definitely want to avoid.
An angle to avoid and how to do so
The angle I used to end up with a lot at the start of my photography journey is the skewed angle! This is where the food looks like it is on a surface that is wonky and the food looks as though it’s going to slide off at any moment! It’s actually quite easy to do because if you are shooting without a tripod, you might not realise that you are holding the camera slightly off angle.
The best way to avoid any of these moments is by investing in a tripod and/or a spirit level. Getting a tripod was honestly one of the best pieces of advice I was given when starting out – stops camera shake, wonky food images, leaves you free to do pouring shots, and other things too. Again I will leave tripods to another time as that is a blog post in itself.
I hope these tips have been helpful for you and they really help you with your photography.
If you fancy having a go at making a soup and taking some awesome flatlay shots afterwards, why not try my Wild Garlic soup – perfect with croutons – super yum!
Until next time!